Students who just … disappear

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Photo by Percy Alban, Laguardia CC.

By Cristina Guity
Campus News

The first day you walk into class it is usually packed with students. A week or so goes by and you see that less and less students are with you in class. Are they switching to other courses or are they dropping out?

Today more and more college students are choosing to drop out in community colleges. One researcher in The Chronicle of Higher Education stated that first-year college students are significantly more likely to drop out if their high-stakes courses are taught by part-time instructors.  

This researcher added that many students who attend community colleges are part-timers and a lot of times they are working full-time and supporting families, taking a hold on them.

I attended college, left so I could properly take care of my son, and then came back. Now, I have done some research as to what others have to say.

I spoke to a few students as to what they think about the causes of the high college dropout rate. One student, Nathaniel Raffloer from the Eastern Campus of Suffolk CCC, stated that “Many students start at community colleges because it’s a cheaper solution, and many have financial worries. Jobs may conflict with the school schedule, and oftentimes students feel discouraged because of that. They also feel discouraged about the fact that they wanted to go to another college, but they did not accept them, and just want to give up all together. Also many of the students do not have the skills to be good college students and give in to peer pressure.”

According to the 2009 US News & World Report article “Solving the College Crisis,” almost half of the 3 million people who start their first year of college each year will drop out before they earn their degrees. For the students who don’t make it to graduation, that lost opportunity can be expensive both in terms of the income they will lose over the course of their work lives and the debt many of them will accrue in their failed quests for a diploma.

I also interviewed another Eastern Campus student named Gwen. What she mainly observed about this was a mixture of different problems. She stated: “The economic situations that we’re up against, the cost per semester, is not easy when you have to maintain a family and have other bills. Many times students at community colleges do not meet the financial aid requirements and feel like they are forced to leave. I also feel that a lot of the students feel like they are not ready to take on their roles as adults. All in all, college life is very demanding, and many students go just to please their parents.”  

I agree with Gwen when she stated that the students come in not ready. Many high schools don’t adequately prepare students to transition into college life. In various reports it’s stated that millions of students are coming out of high school and going straight to remedial courses. When these students are going through this process, it makes many of them feel as if they’re never going to graduate, which in turn makes them feel like giving up.

Barry, a former student from the Eastern Campus of SCCC but who plans to return to school, states: “The recession is taking a toll on many people. Many people are not getting help from their families. Many of us are parents now with multiple children and don’t have the time to juggle the family life and college life. Also many of us are in debt and still trying to pay off our student loans to get back.”
Another student from the Eastern Campus, Victoria, explained how students at community colleges are so close to home and just want to continue their daily routine. She also explained that many come in immature and think that college is like high school.

Beatriz from the Eastern Campus stated how many students at community colleges don’t have transportation and have to rely on the buses; but the buses are unreliable because many times the buses don’t come on schedule and students come late and end up failing their courses because of that.

Whatever the case may be, most students agree that financial reasons are why community college students drop out so often. Can community colleges improve this negative trend? Is there anything being done about the college dropout rate?

Well, in the 2009 article “Dropouts Loom Large for Schools,” President Obama announced a $12 billion plan to produce 5 million more community college grads by 2020. Schools can increase graduation rates if they have a strong leadership, and if they are devoted to making student success a priority. Colleges have to start before students enroll; it has to begin in elementary and high school.
What many high schools are doing now is allowing students to get college credit before they even graduate. Students have to have the proper skills before they get into college, and this will help them skip remedial courses. Another way community colleges can improve their graduation rates is shortening the remedial courses so students can get their main courses done more quickly. Usually the remedial courses last two semesters and students don’t get credit for them, and that frustrates them. What many community colleges are doing now is expanding the online and hybrid courses that will allow students to enroll in more courses.

Students also need to look at themselves and engage themselves more in school such as by joining campus clubs and activities. When you feel like you are truly part of something, that’s when you want to stay with it.

Students need to also find out quickly what they want to be; students who tend to remain unsure of what they want to major in usually dropout more quickly. According to studies, when students are satisfied with the degree program, and academic accomplishment is high, students will be unlikely to drop out.

Whenever you see students vanishing in the beginning of the semester, don’t think they are transferring to another course or another college; chances are that they are dropping out.

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